St Croix River Road Ramblings

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Friday, August 21, 2015

Cushing Fun Days

Saturday, August 22nd  8 am - 3 pm
Old Stuff Sale in Cushing upstairs in the Community Center
Sterling Eureka and Laketown Historical Society
Open House at the Museum 
Been sorting out items from the farm for the Old Stuff sale at the Community Center -- upstairs around the back parking. SELHS does this a fund raiser and to attract folks to visit the museum.   Drop in downstairs for the Firemen's pancake breakfast and then come upstairs to look at the museum rooms and see what you need from the specially donated items for the old stuff sale and the vendors.  We have a lot of fun with Cushing Fun Days (Saturday for us) with the morning in the museum and at 5 pm, watching the adult soapbox derby with the interesting creations coasting down the hill on mainstreet.  

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

August Views

Had a very busy two weeks with the Polk County fair and taking on the 160 year old historic Red School House on the fair grounds at St Croix Falls, WI.  

Scott helped me this year as Margo, although she is improving, is still not very strong and mostly gives advice yet.  With therapy done, she is working on balance and strength improvement so she can stand, walk and do things safely.  

The school house includes cleaning the building, getting in displays, lining up 20 volunteers to sit there for 4-hour shifts over 9-9 four days, the daily upkeep, and then cleaning it all out again.  We had almost 2000 folks drop by on a fair week that was almost perfect weather, so successful!

I plan to put fair photos on in a different post.  Some of the changes that August brings on the farm are interesting.  Still warm weather ahead, but everything is trying to finish up it's cycle of reproducing before the September frosts.  

Field corn is in the early milk stage and looks great

Summer squash

Art by a spider trapping thistle down

Apples are a month away from eating, although the tiny crab apples are pretty good already

Dill heads are seedy.  The dill comes each year in the garden from seeds shed on the ground the year before.  Mom was the "dill lady" who supplied local stores and neighbors with their early dill

We have had a moderate summer with one or two days at 90F so far.  August is starting cool and on calm mornings the fog forms over the old cranberry bog to the east
Trying to change a some old cow pasture grown up to weeds into next year's pumpkin garden.  The little disk is not heavy enough to break the sod, and although this is a very sunny plot, lower and more susceptible to early frosts

Rabbits are thriving on the farm.  In the summer they just eat my gardens, fenced or not, and in the winter, all they do is chew the bark off of my apple trees, especially the young ones I spent $25 each on and have been carefully watering and fertilizing to get started.  I plan to live trap them all and haul them to the woods where they will have a safer winter than at the farm where the farmer has been known to eat rabbits in his younger days. 

Friday, July 31, 2015

2015 County Fair

Margo and I and Scott are busy with the 2015 Polk County Wisconsin Fair at St Croix Falls again this year.  We have entries, help with the Red School house, help with the maple syrup judging and spend the 4 days bumming around at the fair.  
Back when I was a youngster in 4-H, I got hooked on going to the fair.  After retirement, we joined the fair society and have often helped the Polk County Historical Society host the 1853 historic Red School house (moved to the fair grounds in the 1960s) be a historical stop at the fair.  On a normal year about 1500 folks pass through the door and get a glimpse of school days from 100 years ago.  

Some photos as we browse the fair in 2015. 
I asked the photography judge how he decides the blue ribbons for the 1400 entries in various color and black and white classes.
Judging Photos  (click to hear the judge explain the critieria)

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Oh Deer

A buck wandered the orchard Monday eating green windfall apples from the big wind storm of the night.  By afternoon, most of the apples were gone as a buck and doe cleaned them up.  

The rain total for the Sunday night and Monday afternoon rains ended up at 2.1 inches, enough to keep everything growing for most of the rest of July.  Even the soy beans on the sand fields seem to be coming along fine.

Today we run the water from the new well system for an hour or two to clean the chlorine and rust out and then we should be into fresh well water again after a week of spotty water supply as the old well was abandoned and a new one driven.  The new one is the same depth and should give us excellent tasting water again like the old one of at least 100 years use. 

Well Drilling   a video on how the well drilling rig drilled and hammered the new well 99 feet deep for $5400

Eating apples   a video on this deer cleaning the windfall apples in the orchard.  The deer have already eaten the apples in the trees as high as they can reach and browsed the apple branches as high as they can reach too.  

We would be OK with just eating windfall apples on the ground, but climbing up in the tree to get more is not acceptable!

The raised foot is part of chasing away deer flies that pester deer all summer.  In the video you can see some of the tail flick, ear flick, hide quiver, and other fly removal behavior.  Maybe the thick hair helps some of the time. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Well, Well, Well!

Having finally decided to upgrade our old water well system on the farm from an historic pumpjack to a modern submersible pump, we called the local well man, Brad. 

He arrived with his truck and pipe pulling equipment and as I watched the pull begin, the pipe broke off about 90 feet deep in the well.  He pulled up the broken part and we realized the rest of the old system, a cylinder and driven point below were still stuck.  

"We can get them out," he told me,  "but as you see, there is not very much water depth on the pipe.  That means that we may spend the day getting the broken stuff out and still not have enough water to have a decent flow of water.  Remember, I told you that we may be better off drilling a new well, one with a 6 inch casing rather than this 4 inch one, and one that is deeper so you have enough water."

Well, Margo and I had understood that, and knew that instead of $3000 or so for fixing the well, we might have to pay up to 3 times that much for a new well.  We had calculated, consolidated and decided we could swing the full cost if we had to, and of course, a plentiful water supply on a farm is necessary. 

So, since last Wednesday through today, a well driller came, drilled a well, the pump man installed the pump and as of today we are back in water again (although not quite usable as the chlorination has to continue until tomorrow noon).   Here is the whole process in pictures. 

The old well system with tank and pumpjack in a double walled shed insulated for winter with shavings.  Installed in 1970 using the 1939s pumpjack on the 1880s hand dug well.   

The outside walls tipped off, the shavings being loaded and the inside wall to be removed.  I did this early in the morning before the well man arrived.

A cement foundation around the well pump strapped to a 4 inch casing installed sometime after the old 90 foot hole began to cave in.  Later a windmill stood over it. 

Brad arrives to pull the pipes up.  Complication-- on the bottom of 90 feet of pipe is a well cylinder and below that a pipe and sand point driven 10 feet deeper into the ground, a very difficult pull.  In the old days we put two screw jacks, on on each side of a device that slipped over the pipe and turned the screws to get it up the first 10 feet.  

Pump removed, and the pipe pulled, but broken off 90 feet below.  It had rusted almost off where the steel pipe met the brass or bronze cylinder-- under water it eats away with dissimilar metals. 

Having decided to go for a new well closer to the house, Brian brings in the well drilling equipment on Friday.  

99 feet deep, the new well is dug through 25 feet of clay, then coarse gravel, finer gravel and then wet gravel at 80 feet, clay layer at 90 feet and on through to finer sand full of water at 99 feet!

6 inch steel well casing welded in 20 foot sections -- old fashioned but very long lasting

A $1000 drilling bit (3 grinding wheels)

The rig sat for a few days and a robin built a nest

Water begins at 80 feet and gushes at 99

Temporary water through the top of the casing but not good for winter as it will freeze, so a trench to the house comes Monday

A tank, pressure switch and gauge in the basement.  The final line will come underground through the basement floor. 

Monday a trench dug and filled by noon and now some landscaping and fresh clean water again. 

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Milkweed Mayhem

We let lots of milkweeds grow on the farm.  Around the edges of the fields, fence lines, the yard, pond margins, swamp edges etc.  Many thousands I would guess.  The idea is to attract monarch butterflies, who lay eggs on milkweeds, the caterpillar feeds on milkweeds and forms the coccoon on milkweeds and becomes a butterfly on them, as well as visits the flowers for food. 

So, being such a milkweed sponsor, something in the olden days of cow pasture and fields would have been a sign of a poor farmer, I spent a few hours checking them out over the past few days.  Milkweeds also grow on the other woods and old pasture at the cabin, so we should be a haven for monarchs.  

We see a few monarchs around, but not many, maybe one or two per day.  So, have they taken advantage of our milkweeds?

The answer appears to be a complete no!   No signs at all.   They are just coming into bloom, so we will keep watching.  Even though the monarchs are not using them, there are some other bugs that seem to be active.  

Honey Bee on the milkweed bloom
Red Milkweed Beetles enjoying themselves on the 4th of July 2015

Swamp milkweeds like lower wetter soil

I think all of the photos below are aphids or aphid eggs. Ants watch over them as they make honeydew from the milkweed plant that ants like to eat.

Milkweed sap is white, bitter and sticky.  

I saw another bug, the spined soldier bug on a milkweed but didn't get a photo.  So I looked on the internet and found this photo at  Bug Link  I will be looking for these spectacular eggs!  The bug was crawling around and disappeared or flew off as I was trying to focus closely.